NicaNotes: Food Sovereignty Takes a Leap Forward

Trump Calls Nicaragua “a national security threat”!

Tell him it’s a lie!

On Nov. 25, President Trump renewed Executive Order 13851 that he issued a year ago calling “a national emergency pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701-1706) to deal with the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States constituted by the situation in Nicaragua.” 

When we stop laughing, we should remember that it was just such an Executive Order by President Obama against Venezuela that set the conditions for the US to ramp up regime change efforts against the Maduro government which Trump has deepened and expanded since he came to office. 

Nicaraguans refused to allow a coup in their country in 2018 when a US-funded and trained opposition staged a violent uprising that held the country hostage for three months and cost over 200 lives. We cannot become complacent that a victory won is a victory for all time. The US government is powerful and has many weapons in its arsenal.  It is important that we register our strong disagreement with the Executive Order by calling the White House Hotline and our Member of Congress and two Senators at the numbers below or send them a message at their office which can be found by googling their name.

White House comment line:  202-456-1010

Congressional switchboard:  202-224-3121

 

Food Sovereignty Takes a Leap Forward

By David Archuleta

On an airy and beautiful Saturday this past November, the first Instituto Agroecologico Latinoamericano (Latin American Institute of Agroecology or IALA) in Central America held a ceremony for its first cohort of graduates in the Chontales department of Nicaragua. The Ixim Ulew IALA, as it is formally named (Ixim Ulew is Maya K’iche for ‘Land of Corn’), is one of many such schools throughout Latin America. The first IALA school was founded in Venezuela as part of an agreement between President Chavez and Vía Campesina to promote agroecology, food sovereignty, and a united political culture in the Freirean style of horizontal education. In this way the divide between student and teacher becomes blurred and is based on the idea that everyone has something to teach and learn. The students in fact spend much of their time in local communities, both learning and teaching with local campesinos.

On school grounds surrounded by forest and the lush Acoyapa River, contingents from several nations arrived throughout the day, highlighting the diverse bonds of solidarity that were both strengthened and created by the school. The graduating class is comprised of students from countries throughout Central America and the Caribbean including Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, and Guatemala. These students were chosen by their home organizations, all of which are participants in Via Campesina. Solidarity was again on display with flags for each Latin American country high above the platform, handmade in Ciudad Dario. After brief statements by Asociación de Trabajadores del Campo (Farmworkers Union ATC) founder and General Secretary Edgardo Garcia, and Fausto Torrez, director of Ixim Ulew IALA, the round of diploma giving ensued amid joyous applause and smiles. Each student received a technical degree in agroecology. 

Hugo Chavez dreamed of seeing a united Latin America and the IALA schools are one method with which to achieve it. Positioning food sovereignty as a top political priority strengthens bonds between nations as well as the class consciousness and unity of campesinos throughout Latin America. Through the campesino to campesino method, nations throughout the region can strengthen ancestral and culturally appropriate methods while still implementing modern techniques for growing food. Campesino unity and force was fully demonstrated last year in Nicaragua during the failed coup attempt. 

Thanks to the Sandinista revolution, 80% of Nicaraguan land is now controlled by small and medium scale farmers. Nicaragua’s agricultural sector is so strong that Nicaragua produces 90% of the food it consumes. Moreover, small family business and cooperatives make up 94% of all economic and social entities and the majority of products, including food, circulate in what is known as the popular economy

Last year’s coup attempt couldn’t make the economy scream in large part due to the resiliency of a decentralized economy and self-sufficiency. This political understanding of the intimate relationship between the struggle for food sovereignty and social movements is a cornerstone of IALA teaching. Along with the historical context, the students also learn the contemporary struggle in each of their home countries, and their final task is to return home to share and put this knowledge into practice.

Although the US flag was not on display, the alliance and historic relationship between US peoples and Latin America has certainly not been forgotten. Among those attending and given special recognition by Edgardo Garcia was Brian Willson, the famed solidarity activist who lost his legs while attempting to stop a train of arms to Central America in the 1980s. 

Also in attendance was Pittsburgh-based author Dan Kovalik, who wrote The Plot to Overthrow Venezuela, among many other anti-imperialist works. Besides the detachment from Alliance for Global Justice, myself included, there were also many other US-based activists. All this to say that the school represents a very particular and contemporary manifestation of practical solidarity between peoples and for a better world. The students themselves are the absolute epitome of the fourth political space, a further brick in the still-drying foundation for a multi-polar world, and the apex of centuries of Latin American struggle. If you are interested in learning more about the students and the school you can join the upcoming delegation to Nicaragua in February (more info below), read some of their testimonies, or donate directly to the school through the Friends of the ATC solidarity network.

In conclusion, AFGJ recognizes the relevancy of the first graduating class of the Ixim Ulew IALA in the struggle to create a better world based on new political and economic models. AFGJ formally sends grand congratulations to the premier class of IALA Ixim Ulew students with the warmest feelings of solidarity and hope for the future.

 —

You’re invited: Sandino Vive! Delegation to Nicaragua

February 13 – 23, 2020

Join the Friends of the ATC/AFGJ solidarity delegation to Nicaragua, the beautiful Central American nation known as the “land of lakes and volcanoes.” Named by former U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton as part of the “troika of tyranny” alongside Cuba and Venezuela, Nicaragua was subjected to an attempted coup d’etat in 2018 that left the international community wondering what was happening in the country. This is your chance to see what’s really going on in Nicaragua, 40 years after the triumph of the Sandinista Popular Revolution which overthrew the U.S.-backed Somoza dictatorship.

Our delegation will meet with different sectors of the Nicaraguan population, including workers, farmers, women, youth, and journalists. An important part of the delegation will be spent in rural areas in communities organized by the Rural Workers’ Association (Asociación de Trabajadores del Campo [ATC]), which is a founding member of the global peasant movement La Via Campesina. We will also visit important sites of the Sandinista Revolution as part of our efforts to preserve the historic memory of this nation’s long struggle for sovereignty. On February 21, we will remember the 86th anniversary of the killing of Augusto C. Sandino, the “General of Free Women and Men”, who has inspired decades of anti-imperialist struggle in Nicaragua and around the world.

This delegation is co-sponsored by the Friends of the ATC solidarity network, La Via Campesina Nicaragua, and the Alliance for Global Justice.

When: Thursday, February 13 to Sunday, February 23, 2020

Interested in applying? Please email info@friendsatc.org for an application. Applications are due Sunday, December 22, 2019.

For more information, visit friendsatc.org/delegations.

 

BRIEFS

By Nan McCurdy

Thousands March for Peace Rights, Joy and Affection
On Dec. 1, thousands in Managua marched under the slogan “We all have rights, peace is not a game, for a Christmas in joy, peace and affection.” José Antonio Zepeda, a teacher’s union leader, explained, “The walk is a sign of the commitment of the Nicaraguan people who love peace and tranquility. We have assumed the responsibility of continuing to fight permanently for the welfare of families. All the educators who defend free education for our children and youth are walking.” Aurora Membreño said, “With peace we do not play; today more than ever women participate in this walk in which we all show that we love Nicaragua. We want to continue working, enjoy our New Year’s Eve festivities in tranquility and if necessary we will go out every day to show our enemies that we are a brave, brave country.” The march ended with a music festival in which the crowd sang songs and paid tribute to all the men and women who died defending sovereignty, peace and dignity. (Radiolaprimerisima, 12/1/19)

National Assembly Approves Budget Reform
On Nov. 26, the National Assembly approved an increase in the current budget. Deputy Wálmaro Gutiérrez, chair of the Committee on Economic Affairs, Finance and Budget, said, “The modification is due to greater tax revenue in the second half of this year that allows us to increase the budget by US$207,890, guaranteeing the Public Investment Plan.” The reform seeks to preserve balance in the budget, sustainability of public finances, and contribute to the creation of jobs and protection of spending for social programs. (Nicaragua News, 11/27/19)

Improvements in Education Continue
The General Budget 2020 includes resources for the Ministry of Education not only to maintain free and quality education, but also to strengthen education in the countryside and continue building and improving infrastructure. MINED will implement improvements during the rest of 2019 in the amount of US$370,000 “to help remodel the infrastructure of various schools in different departments and municipalities of the country including Nagarote, Matagalpa, León, Rivas, Paiwas, Managua, San Rafael del Sur, Tipitapa, Río San Juan,” announced the presidential advisor for education, Salvador Vanegas. Vanegas also announced that this week MINED will give 25,638 certificates to young and adult literacy students. The week beginning with Dec. 2 closes the school year with graduations in public primary and secondary schools, and graduations of students in technical careers at INATEC. (Informe Pastran, 12/2/19)

Nicaraguan Government with Preferential Option for the Poor
Vice President Rosario Murillo commented that, through all the social impact programs that the government executes and promotes, it demonstrates a preferential option for the poor. “All the programs and projects to fight poverty show a preferential option to include those who are in poverty so that they can move out of poverty and strengthen paths of peace, good, industriousness, and well-being: this well-being that we are achieving,” she stressed. (Informe Pastran, 12/2/19)

CABEI Promotes Macroeconomic Stability
The Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) renewed its commitment to economic growth in the region by promoting policy actions with measurable outcomes and impacts. It will make US$250 million per fiscal year available for each country. The Board of Directors of CABEI approved the plan to support countries in their financing requirements as part of the sovereign public sector investment plan. Initially, this program will have a total limit of US$1 billion for its member countries. (Informe Pastran, 12/2/19)

34 Countries in Food and Culture Festival
The International Gastronomic and Cultural Festival “December Traditions” was held in Managua Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 during which Nicaraguan families were able to enjoy the culinary art of 34 countries. Juan Carlos Hernandez, ambassador of Cuba, stressed that once again Cuba’s booth exceeded expectations, since the dish offered, suckling pig, is one of the most desired by Nicaraguans. “Today we celebrate the joy and unity of our peoples, every year more families participate in our culinary traditions, it is beautiful to see the peoples united, the families celebrating,” he said. The Russian Attaché, Artem Vasilchikov said, “It is the first time we are in the festival and I love the experience because Nicaraguans have liked our recipes. Nicaraguans are very welcoming people. Thanks to the government for creating these beautiful spaces.” Families arrived very early at the festival held at the Olof Palme Convention Center, and savored different dishes from the 34 invited countries. See photos here: https://www.el19digital.com/articulos/ver/titulo:97421-espectacular-cierre-del-festival-gastronomico-cultural-internacional (El19Digital, 12/2/19)

Government Supporting Small Farm Families
The Ministry of Family Economy (MEFFCA) is supporting 300 small farmers in the departments of Nueva Segovia, Madriz, Matagalpa and Boaco by allocating US 88,757 for the raising of chicken and pigs. The financing is part of the Strategy for the Creative Economy Program that the Government is implementing throughout the country. (Nicaragua News, 12/2/19)

Greater Use of Wind Energy
On Nov. 26 the Nicaragua Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) highlighted a report by the digital magazine Clean Energy XXI on the potential of wind energy in Nicaragua. The report notes that 26% of the energy consumed nationally comes from wind and the country has potential to generate more than 1,000 MW of wind energy. MEM Minister Salvador Mansell said, “Currently with the support of the Nordic Development Fund, feasibility studies are being carried out in León, Carazo, Madriz, Matagalpa and Jinotega departments to assess the potential for wind systems that would be connected to the national electricity grid, contributing to the efforts of the Nicaragua Government to transform the energy grid of the country.” (Nicaragua News, 11/27/19)

COPPPAL Meets in Managua
From Nov. 26-29 the Permanent Conference of Political Parties of L.A. and the Caribbean (COPPPAL) met in Managua. President Ortega assured attendees that the COPPPAL call is a call for unity and the defense of the peoples of Latin America, something that Nicaragua has done since the time of Sandino, who himself spread Bolivarian thought against expansionism. In its final declaration the COPPPAL rejected foreign interventions and condemned the violation of human rights in countries where coups have been inflicted by the US. They condemned the blockade of Cuba and the attacks on Venezuela and Nicaragua by the government of Donald Trump. And they reaffirmed the commitment to the independence of Puerto Rico and the Malvinas Islands. (Canal 2, 11/30/19)

Managua Inaugurates Sixth Sports Academy
The Volleyball Academy is aimed at developing the talent of children between the ages of ten and sixteen. Deputy mayor of Managua Enrique Armas said, “The idea is to continue promoting volleyball. This was a very successful year for Nicaraguan volleyball; we had great tournaments here, both salon volleyball and beach volleyball.” The Mayor’s Office of Managua sponsors baseball, soccer, boxing, basketball and swimming academies, which bring together more than 1,600 athletes. (El19Digital, 11/30/19)

New Maternal Wait Homes and Home for Special Needs
The municipalities and the Ministry of Health will complete new maternal wait homes where women from rural areas can stay until they have their babies. Ten projects are planned with an investment of US$100,300 that also includes homes for people with special health needs in San Isidro, Matagalpa; Bonanza, North Caribbean; and improvement of the maternal wait home of La Libertad, Chontales. (Informe Pastran, 11/28/19)

Opposition News
     Over recent weeks, opposition activists have set off bombs in the Masaya area in an effort to scare the local population.  On Nov. 14, a group of 13 opposition activists were detained by the police in Masaya. They said they were there to deliver water and medicine to a group of hunger strikers in the San Miguel Church, however police found a cache of weapons and explosives on them and they were therefore arrested.  Corporate media and organizations such as Amnesty International seem to always print the opposition narrative, in this case, that they were unjustly arrested and that this represents a ‘new wave of repression’ by the Government. There are real fears based on previous actions that the opposition will use the church, as they did during the failed coup, as a base for armed attacks. 

     In a different incident, at the end of November, two police officers were killed in Masaya in confrontations with an armed gang. Four gang members also died and two were arrested; the opposition is now claiming that they were their supporters. If this is true, it means that the opposition is effectively admitting that they are armed (several weapons were recovered in both incidents). The vast majority of Masaya residents are fearful of a return to the violence of last year and have welcomed the police presence in their city as a way of ensuring their safety.

     On 25 November, opposition journalist Carlos Chamorro returned to Nicaragua, bringing an end to almost a year of self-imposed exile in Costa Rica. At least seven more former exiles arrived with him, five of whom are opposition journalists. This seems to be a clear signal that Nicaragua’s opposition is once again preparing for action.  Already, fake news stories are appearing almost daily on social media, some of them even using video footage from last year and claiming that it is related to events taking place now. And, as in 2018, corporate media such as the UK Guardian merely repeat the false claims and accusations of the opposition. It is interesting to note that even these high-level opposition members admit they not had one problem returning to Nicaragua. (NSCAG report, Informe Pastran, Radiolaprimerisima, late Nov., early Dec., 2019)